The Minnesota Zoo opens our eyes to the amazing diversity of life on this planet by offering a chance to learn about and see animals from around the world. But did you know there are lots of animals at the Zoo who don’t live in enclosures? Approximately 280 acres of the Zoo site is undeveloped, which provides a home for all sorts of native wildlife! From relatively common oak forest, aspen woodland, lakes, ponds, and marshes, to regionally rarer environments like vernal pools, sedge meadows, and northern rich fens, this area contains habitats for a diverse array of native plants and animals.red-eyed vireo

The BioDiscovery Project was initiated in the spring of 2013 to discover, document, and monitor the native wildlife that occur on these undeveloped areas. So far, we’ve been able to try out a variety of field methods to observe wild animals. We’re excited to share with you the discoveries we’ve made, and if you’d like to see more of our photos, check out our photo album on Facebook!

This past summer, we documented many species of birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and mammals. Most of these species were already known to occur on Zoo site, but some, such as the southern red-backed vole, meadow jumping mouse, spotted spreadwing damselfly, calico pennant dragonfly, rose-breasted grosbeak, red-eyed vireo, wood frog, and boreal chorus frog, were documented for the first time on the property this past summer.fox

Some of our field methods include bird watching, hand netting insects, live trapping small mammals, and searching wetland areas for reptiles and amphibians. In addition to spending time in the field ourselves, we set up seven trail cameras to help detect animals too large or shy to be found using other methods. We are continuing to add new field methods to our repertoire, such as mist netting for bats and birds, as well as an acoustic monitoring system to record bird, bat, and frog calls.

Stay tuned to this blog, as well as the Minnesota Zoo’s Facebook page, for more updates on our discoveries. We’ll also keep you updated on opportunities for you to come exploring with us! We will be developing citizen science opportunities through the Project, and we also will soon be on the lookout for BioDiscovery Project interns for the summer of 2014.

insect mouse netting snake toad